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Randy. What a good word. Horny is even better. As many a horny teenage boy must have found, a high libido can be a mixed blessing. It's the irony of youth that when you have the highest sex drive of your life, you often have the least opportunity to express it, at least with a partner.
The average frequency of orgasm in the teenage years is between once a day and once every two days, though more often is not uncommon. I should think this is a frequency which is rarely if ever matched in a man's forties, and even by his late thirties, things are usually slowing down. But for many young men, feeling horny has a sense of urgency which often seems irresistible.
I think of randiness as something apart from the physical arousal which is expressed in having an erection, though they often go together for me. But I do see a difference. Randiness is a feeling of desire rooted in my mind, a consciousness that I want sexual release, an awareness that I have a more or less intense urge or desire to have sex with someone - and at times it seems like anyone would do.
This must be a more physical, animalistic expression of male human sexuality than the love or desire one feels for one's beloved. This feeling of sexual urgency is rooted in the effect of testosterone on the male brain: or, indeed, on the female brain. There is apparently a group of women in America who call themselves the third sex, and take high doses of testosterone specifically to enjoy the intense sexual desire they get from it.
They feel the hair that grows on their bodies and the clitoral enlargement they undergo as side effects are worth putting up with in their wish to experience something like male desire. And Germaine Greer once said that she felt like a rapist after having had high levels of testosterone put into her system during some medical procedure.
This awareness of what seems like a high level of sexual desire is one of the things that define my maleness in my thinking. If I go through a period of lowered sex drive - like when I'm under stress, or tired, or worrying - I have fewer erections, and I feel the loss of them quite keenly. My penis is generally smaller, which I assume is due to reduced blood flow in that part of my body, and my mood is less stable, too. All of these changes make me feel less masculine.
I know that some people would say masculinity rests in a set of male behaviors and male attitudes (and perhaps also the absence of female characteristics and attitudes) rather than the presence or absence of erections and so on, but I'm trying to describe my internal world, not the external one. I can't comment on how masculine other people think I am.
In the time before I committed to a monogamous relationship with my loved one, there was certainly a connection between the level of my sex drive and my level of discrimination about who I had sex with. Indeed, to some extent, the higher my libido, the more I wanted to savor the thrills of illicit, risky sexual behaviors - which I think is a wider male trait reflected in the difficulty of discouraging men from taking part in unsafe sex with unknown partners.
In those male moments of greatest desire, a man's need for sexual release might really rule his behavior. No-one need take this as a defense of bad male behavior - it is an ability to stop ourselves doing something through choice that makes us human.
What is the difference between libido and desire? A fine point. I think very little, really. My desire is generally higher for people I love or feel some connection with, or who show their love for me by the things they do - but without at least some libido, the flames of my desire cannot ignite and burn brightly, no matter how much I love them.
So, for example, being seduced by my loved one, with little provocative gestures, eye contact, or a flash of intimate fleshy bits as I leave the house for the office, will act to fan the flames of my desire during the day if I am feeling sexually alive to start with. But when my libido is awake, pretty much anything she does can make my desire greater. Some of the most effective things in this way are her acts of loving kindness, or simple gestures that show she is thinking of me when I'm not with her.
In the past, a week spent on a self-development course gave me the chance to explore the emotional connections between myself and an attractive woman whom I met there. The growing bond between us over the week led me to a level of desire for her that I never experienced for any woman before.
Indeed, I had never known till that moment that it was possible to want a woman so much: but because there was a connection between us, it wasn't pure lust - or, rather, it didn't feel like pure lust - it felt like sex underpinned by, well, not love obviously, unless you can fall in love in a week, but by an important connection that gave our sex greater meaning. In other words, proving yet again that sex is better between two people who care about each other. Like I said above, emotional connection can flame the intensity of desire.
There are some specific combinations of characteristics that can inflame my desire: the most potent of these are femininity and vulnerability combined. I think this is because I'm drawn towards the female sexuality while wanting to express my natural protectiveness towards a vulnerable woman: a potent combination indeed. But only in the short term.
As it happens, in the longer term I find women consistently behaving in a vulnerable way without ever showing any strength quite off-putting and exasperating.
And there are certain physical characteristics that promote my sex drive. I think everyone has a look they go for in the opposite sex: at its most basic, this is the female form at its most curvy and sexy - the exaggerated breasts and hips of the curvaceous models advertising bras on billboards must have a powerful effect on somebody; maybe it's on women, though, who think their men want them to look like that. The way I see it, those models are certainly nice to look at, but the woman who fans my desire long-term has to meet me in my head, as well as my body, for the desire to last.
And before I confuse myself any more with these ramblings, maybe that's the point: we are human male animals - and thus we're programmed to find women (all women) interesting; but we are human first and foremost, so sex based on love is much more satisfying. At least for me.
I like to go on holiday for many reasons, but one of them is that my libido is often stronger than when I have to work every day. And there are other times when my libido seems stronger: the start of a new relationship being a fairly obvious one.
As a biologist I'd interpret this as nature's attempt to get a pregnancy going as quickly as possible: after all, the survival of the species is everything in the animal kingdom. The same thing is true after my love or I have been separated for a while: as a biologist I could interpret this as a means of reinforcing the pair bond with lots of exciting sex.
On the other hand, perhaps it's something to do with the semen building up and reinforcing a neurological feedback loop which the brain interprets as increased desire. Who knows? It's true that abstinence makes my desire greater. And getting off lessens it.
If I had to sum all this up, I would say the things that make me horny are having a regular and willing partner to whom I feel physically attracted, keeping our sex life fresh with lots of light-hearted play, both in and out of bed, spending time being intimate with each other, working at emotional connection, and having enough testosterone to feel sexy in the first place.
Last but not least...how often? Well, for me, at fifteen, a masturbate a day. At twenty pretty much the same. At thirty, sex three or four times a week normally, but more on holiday (at least once a day). And the odd bit of masturbation thrown in.
At forty: don't know, it remains to be seen, but sex between once a week and once every two weeks would be pretty much the norm, I'm thinking. My beloved would like to have sex more often than we do, but women get hornier in their thirties, while men get less horny. At least that's what she keeps telling me.
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